One of the surprises of the tumultuous 2020 Presidential Election was Georgia, a traditionally Republican state, turning blue in favor of Joe Biden. Biden would go on to win the election, and his victory is partially attributed to Georgia’s crucial 16 electoral votes. Biden won by a margin of 0.23%, and there was much contestation over the legitimacy of these results. These disputes were led by the defeated President Trump. Eventually, Biden was declared the rightful winner, but that did not mean that there was no more controversy to come in the state of Georgia.
Georgia voting Democratic in the 2020 election could be attributed to many things, large voter mobilization movements in the state, the diversification of city suburbs, and racial demographic changes. But, all of these combined led to hope from Democrats that Georgia could soon become a true-blue state, emphasized by the double victory the party had in the Georgia Senate races the same year. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their elections and gave Democrats control of the Senate in the process. There was evident hope in the minds of many, that this was a turning point for the state, and that it would no longer be a Republican stronghold, but a Democratic one. But, these hopes would soon be hindered by the actions of Republicans in the state.
Following the 2020 election and the accusations of voter fraud that were led by Trump and his allies, Georgia joined many states in passing restrictive voting laws. Many Republicans believed and still do, that there were unlawful factors that contributed to President Biden’s victory. Republican governors across the country have decided to pass various laws that fall under the guise of stealth authoritarianism, where they are enacting statutes that eventually hurt voters. Brian Kemp, the current governor of Georgia, is one of them. Stealth authoritarianism can take many forms, but they all have one thing in common: politicians use laws they enacted to increase their power and disenfranchise others, especially their opponents.
Kemp’s election to the Governor’s office also came with controversy, as he refused to resign as Georgia’s Secretary of State during the election. He won by a small margin against Stacey Abrams, and while she accused him of voter suppression, there was no evidence of this occurring during the election cycle. But, while Kemp has been in office, he has taken extreme measures to undermine the votes of Georgians across the state. Georgia Republicans witnessed how the opposition succeeded in the state during the 2020 election cycle, and are desperate to stop this from happening again.
One of the main examples of voter suppression in Georgia is the law SB 202. Signed by Kemp in March 2021, the law targets absentee ballots, to which Biden’s victory in the state could be contributed. 1.3 million absentee ballots were cast during the election, and lawmakers sought to change that with SB v202, and even more. Some of the effects of this law include outlawing giving bottles of water or food to those waiting in line to vote, mandating that drop boxes be placed inside early voting sites, and requiring driver’s licenses or state ID numbers to vote by mail. Mobile voting is also now illegal in the state as well.
People of color, especially black voters, helped carry Biden to victory in 2020. According to FiveThirtyEight, more than 136,000 new Black voters in crucial Georgia counties showed up to vote in 2020. But now, lawmakers in Georgia seek to prevent that from happening again. Studies have shown that voter suppression disproportionally affects people of color. Black people are less likely to have these necessary IDs than white people. According to the Brennan Center, people of color face longer lines to vote than white people. As ballot boxes close, it becomes harder for voters who lack good transportation to cast their ballots. Fulton County was targeted for its mobile voting, which is the county with the largest Black population in the state. All of these combined make it inherently difficult for people of color to vote in the state, the same bloc that made it possible for Democrats to win in the first place.
This is inciting fear in black voters in Georgia as the 2022 midterms grow closer. According to a January 2022 Quinnipiac poll, only 18 percent of black voters feel confident that all citizens will have an equal right to vote in the upcoming election. This is compared to 54 percent of white voters. This lack of confidence is just another example of how the civic culture in America is slowly being eradicated, a signal to further democratic breakdown. If Americans feel unsure if their vote will be counted correctly, then the United States is truly failing as a democracy. A norm in the United States has been the ability to participate in free and fair elections, but this is fading away. Confidence in electoral systems should not be divided by race, but the actions of Republican leaders, specifically in Georgia, have led to unleveled opportunities for democratic participation.
With all of this in mind, the 2022 Georgia elections are under a month away, and the rampant voter suppression in the state makes this election more crucial than ever. As we saw in the 2020 Presidential election, the state is practically evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but will that be reflected in the final results? In both the rematch between Abrams and Kemp, and Warnock’s reelection bid, it remains to be seen if the Democrats will continue their momentum, or if Republican voter suppression efforts will block their hopes. Nevertheless, the laws enacted in Georgia by those in power have not only undermined democratic norms that built the United States but also created a sense of stealth authoritarianism, endangering American democracy.